The apparel industry continues to be a hotbed of innovation, with activity driven by comfort and technology, and the growing importance of technologies such as breathable garments and blended fabrics. In the last three years alone, there have been over 32,000 patents filed and granted in the apparel industry, according to GlobalData’s report on Environmental sustainability in Apparel: Breathable sports garments.
However, not all innovations are equal and nor do they follow a constant upward trend. Instead, their evolution takes the form of an S-shaped curve that reflects their typical lifecycle from early emergence to accelerating adoption, before finally stabilising and reaching maturity.
Identifying where a particular innovation is on this journey, especially those that are in the emerging and accelerating stages, is essential for understanding their current level of adoption and the likely future trajectory and impact they will have.
20+ innovations will shape the apparel industry
According to GlobalData’s Technology Foresights, which plots the S-curve for the apparel industry using innovation intensity models built on over 13,000 patents, there are 20+ innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry.
Within the emerging innovation stage, heat reflector clothing, UV-treated garments, and recycled material shoes are disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. Arylene nanofibre clothing and blended aramid fire-resistant fabrics are the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas are anti-microbial undergarment fabrics and breathable sports garments, which are now well established in the industry.
Innovation S-curve for environmental sustainability in the apparel industry
Breathable sports garments is a key innovation area in environmental sustainability
Polyester is a synthetic fabric that finds significant application in the manufacturing of sportswear. It is breathable and light in weight and as a result, is used in activewear.
GlobalData’s analysis also uncovers the companies at the forefront of each innovation area and assesses the potential reach and impact of their patenting activity across different applications and geographies. According to GlobalData, there are 30+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established apparel companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of breathable sports garments.
Key players in breathable sports garments – a disruptive innovation in the apparel industry
‘Application diversity’ measures the number of different applications identified for each relevant patent and broadly splits companies into either ‘niche’ or ‘diversified’ innovators.
‘Geographic reach’ refers to the number of different countries each relevant patent is registered in and reflects the breadth of geographic application intended, ranging from ‘global’ to ‘local’.
Patent volumes related to breathable sports garments
Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics
The leading players in the breathable garments space in terms of patents filed are NIKE, Wacoal, Under Armour, FALKE, and Artemis. NIKE’s Dri-Fit technology comprises a polyester fabric that helps those who wear it by keeping them dry during their workouts and sporting activities. Dri-Fit's microfibre composition supports the natural cooling system of the body. It wicks away sweat and disperses it across the fabric’s surface to enable faster evaporation.
With the COVID-19 pandemic amplifying consumer concerns regarding their health and fitness, consumers have been becoming more inclined towards exercise and sports. Also, rising temperatures and heatwaves around the world will result in people sweating more. These factors will drive the demand for breathable garments in the future.
To further understand the key themes and technologies disrupting the apparel industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Apparel.